The Unexpected Kentucky Dam Visitor Center

Written by

Jason Barnette


August 2, 2017

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I cautiously approached the top of the dam looking for signs warning me to turn around or not to enter, but I couldn’t find any. A few seconds later I was driving across the top of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kentucky Dam. At the other end I found a curving bridge descending to a parking lot and a completely unexpected visitor center.

The glass doors on the right lead to the visitor center; the turnstile on the left is for authorized personnel only and they will taze you if you try to enter. Just kidding. But seriously.

The Kentucky Dam Visitor Center was pretty amazing to explore even though it takes only a few minutes. Being the nerd that I am I was most amazed by the large touch screen television featuring the entire Tennessee Valley Authority system, including all the reservoirs, lakes, dams, and locks. I spent nearly half an hour scouring the map mostly because I wanted to see how many I had already visited (there are 48 TVA dams and I’ve already visited 22 of them).

There was a nice gentleman at the visitor center with a wealth of knowledge from working at various dams most of his career. He was happy to answer questions and point out things I had never considered before like the fact the Tennessee River drops in elevation several hundred feet from Boone Lake to the Ohio River.

I’m not sure if I was actually allowed to take this photo, but when I pressed my cellphone camera against the glass wall to reduce the glare nobody said anything. This is the actual control room of the dam. Still a lot of analog gauges.

The visitor center included a few maps of the TVA system, information on hydroelectricity, and a nice balcony overlooking the river below the dam. One wall was entirely glass and at first I thought it was displaying a mock control room until I saw people working inside! It’s the actual control room for the dam and offered a peak into the controls, computers, and gauges needed to keep the water flowing and power generating.

The parking lot at the visitor center has room for lots of cars, a few benches along the high river bank, and plenty of large shady trees for a family picnic. It was a nice diversion from my road trip across the country and gave me a wonderful place to enjoy lunch and a nap.

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